Morning Flight - Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wow, what a weekend! I’m still reeling from the amount of birds that have passed through Cape A-May-zing over the past two days. If you thought yesterday was awesome (and it was), there was a greater spectacle to be had today, even by Cape May’s high bar.

With the convergence of the weekend with good conditions for migration and word of yesterday’s great flight, another crowd of observers assembled on the dike hoping for another good morning. The winds had stayed out of the north overnight until midnight, at which point they switched to being light out of the northeast. So the question was: would it be a moderate echo of the morning before, or would a new influx of migrants bring more surprises?

The birds took sunrise for the migratory equivalent of a starter’s pistol, and things got busy *fast,* with groups of high warblers moving against the cloudy skies. The flight line to the east quickly filled up with warblers and a host of other songbirds to form a chaotic menagerie of jumbled silhouettes, mostly headed north but a struggle to sort through with a busy flight already happening right on top of us.

At the same time, flickers erupted out of the Higbee fields and came bounding over the treeline towards us. Pods of nuthatches poured out of the vegetation all the way from the dunes to overhead. I had *not* been expecting The Bird Force to be flowing at this magnitude, but clearly I should have, since both flickers and nuthatches really move on days where the winds are light. As with yesterday, tasks were quickly divvied up (including the ever-critical “flicker clicker”), and the callouts from the crowd had me “playing the data piano” as I entered species into Trektellen.

Yesterday’s nuthatch total was easily shattered within the first hour of the count, and they just kept coming in droves! Even with tasks delegated, we were running on all cylinders until around 8:30, when the bulk of the flight tapered off sharply. I think I literally caught my breath; the adrenaline had me feeling like it should have been 10:30! But the birds weren’t done by a long shot. A steady stream of nuthatches and flickers continued late into the morning. We ended the day with 913 northbound Northern Flickers (almost a top 3 flight for the count), but even more impressively we finished with 512 (!!!) northbound Red-breasted Nuthatches! This represents a new *all-time peak day count* for the official Morning Flight Songbird Count, which is totally awesome! The previous high was 427 from October 5th in the fall of 2012, which stands out in the memory of many as a fabulous fall for boreal birds. This portends well for an interesting late season in Cape May (and the entire northeast and mid-Atlantic!) this fall. So if you feel like you’ve missed out, just come on down in October when the next front is lining up!

As with yesterday, there was a good supporting cast of woodpeckers to complement the flicker fest. A handful of both Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers bounded by the count today, providing good looks. There’s just something so entertaining about seeing migrating woodpeckers!

Coming to a sap well near you!
Blue Jays still put in a solid showing with 225 southbound individuals, but compared to yesterday, far fewer headed north back up the flight line (“only” 160 northbound). It seems like many were content to hang out on the island, so I guess they found some good oak trees!

Much maligned, ever beautiful.
Although they are usually the most colorful and entertaining part of morning flight, the warblers had the show stolen from them for the most part. Still, we had some fun numbers of warblers comprising 17 actively migrating species consisting mostly of Blackpolls, Palms, and Yellow-rumps (which made their first notable influx today) but also including great views of Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Cape May, American Redstart, and more.

Oh, what a lovely, indelible day indeed. Once more I owe huge, enormous thanks to the cast of helpers: Adehl Schwaderer, Jerald Reb, Ross and Melissa Gallardy, Dave Nicosia, Kyle Bardwell, Lisa Wolf, and more. Busy days at Morning Flight truly require a team effort, and your assistance is vastly appreciated!

As always, you can find our official count totals on Trektellen here, and our complete eBird checklist of the day’s observations here.

Bring on the next day!

We'll be seeing a lot more of you very soon!

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